Beer Glassware for Dummies
Posted on 6/27/2012 by Chops
Glassware is a hot topic in the craft beer world. There are countless variations to choose from which can get pretty daunting. But here at BrewChief, one of our goals is to make the craft beer world more accessible. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, the choice of glassware is mostly irrelevant to the average beer drinker. The only hard set rule when it comes to glassware is that you are actually using a glass. You should NEVER drink a beer directly from its container. As long as you abide by that one golden rule, from there it's up to your personal preference and desired level of education. If you want to differentiate every beer style with a different glass, feel free. If you want to drink everything you find out of a pint glass, by all means. But I reiterate: at least use a glass.

There are numerous reasons for using a glass, but I will try and break them down to the most obvious and useful. For most beer drinkers, the necessity of using a glass becomes self evident after trying to drink a Russian Imperial Stout from the bottle. In order to enjoy a good beer, you have to have an expectation. Containers give no expectations, but your eyes and nose do. Pouring a beer into a glass allows your mind to formulate patterns and impressions. After a while, you will start to associate specific flavors and mouthfeels to specific aromas and appearances. It's actually pretty fascinating. Sometimes you can taste a beer long before you actually taste it. Drinking a beer from its container is counterproductive because it forces you to formulate an opinion on the fly. As a result, complex brews like Belgians or Imperials will almost always taste horrible from the container because they bombard your brain with too much information to process. This is the primary reason why you should always use a glass.

That being said, glassware choice is actually pretty simple for the average craft brew fan (''average'' being the key word here). Three different kinds of glasses will properly prepare you for the vast majority of beers you encounter: tall, wide, and pint.

Tall glasses go by many names: flute, pilsner, stange, weizen, etc. The main purpose in using this glass type is to prevent a lighter beer from losing its character too quickly. Lighter brews like pilsners, weizens, witbiers and saisons typically have a high amount of carbonation, which can leech out flavor really quickly. Piling the beer on top of itself in a tall glass creates a trapping effect which prevents it from dissipating too quickly. Otherwise, the beer may taste flat and uninteresting.

Wide glasses also go by many names: goblet, chalice, snifter, tulip, wine, etc. The primary purpose of using these glasses is to allow complex beers to breath, much like you see with wine. Strong and complex beers like Belgian quads, imperial stouts, barleywines and old ales need to churn and settle before drinking, otherwise you'll get blasted with lopsided flavor notes. Plus, wide glasses allow for an easier study of thick appearances and pungent aromas before sampling. Like I mentioned earlier, it really helps to properly prepare yourself for these beastly encounters.

Everything else is fit for a standard pint glass or beer mug. IPAs, pale ales, ambers, bocks, dunkels, browns, porters, you name it. Throw 'em in a pint glass or mug and enjoy. Generally speaking, none of these beers have any specific character traits that are going to get lost in a glass choice. But regardless, you still want to give your senses some sort of expectation.

In closing, I should reiterate that this posting is geared towards the average craft beer fan. I'm sure there are plenty of devoted beer geeks out there who would chastise me for over-simplifying glassware choices. To them I quote George Carlin: ''Calm down, have some dip.'' This post isn't meant for you. By all means, feel free to explore the intricacies of glassware and its countless effects on beer. But don't get all snobbish about it. Yes, there is a subtle difference between a goblet and a tulip glass, but most beer fans will never taste the difference (nor would they care to).

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